It was easy to root for these seniors

Tom Batters
Richwoods seniors (pictured, from left to right) Mason Alwan, Tylon Deal, T.J. Cole, Tony Frazier and Aaron Davis will be remembered as part of the strongest senior class ever to play at Richwoods.

Richwoods coach Mike Ellis had tears in his eyes as he spoke to the media after the Knights lost a heartbreaker, 58-55, in the Class 3A state championship game Saturday at Carver Arena.

The game itself was not what saddened him.

The walk to the locker room to address his players is what got him choked up.

“It’s hard to swallow, knowing that it will be the last time I’ll have them all together,” he said. “This team is a family. We’ve all gone through so much together. These seniors, especially, have meant so much to me.”

Mason Alwan. David Anderson. T.J. Cole. Aaron Davis. Tylon Deal. Torrence Evans. Tony Frazier. Nick Hines.

Take note of those seniors because it will be a long time before Richwoods, or any basketball program, has a senior class like that one.

Newspaper reporters are taught to remain objective and to never openly display a rooting interest.

Well, I have no problem ignoring that rule when it comes to this group.

Yeah, I was rooting for these seniors, not just because of the way they played basketball.

They are all really good kids.

How could you not root for Aaron Davis, who almost died after he was shot multiple times in his home last summer?

Davis does not say much, but he is one of the nicest athletes I have ever interviewed.

You would think a team with this much talent would have at least one “jerk” — you know, the kid who brags about himself and struts around like he is better than everyone else?

Not this one.

Deal, the first team all-stater, could strut and brag if he wanted to, but he was always humble. He never once basked in the spotlight that shined on him.

Earlier in the season, after a game in which Deal stole the show, I asked him what he thought of his performance.

“I was just trying to help my teammates win,” he said, without a trace of conceit.

Alwan, even after a loss or a rough shooting night (he didn’t have many of them), always seemed like he was glad to see the friends, family and even media members who waited for him outside the locker room.

Cole was always eloquent in postgame interviews and he carried himself with class, even as annoying reporters kept asking him about his knee and his famous big brother.

Frazier, who has been described as “volatile,” because of his flare ups on the court, was always respectful off the court.

These seniors, especially the five starters (Alwan, Davis, Deal, Cole and Frazier) were fun to watch, but they were even more fun to be around.

So, when Ellis teared up, I knew why.

Losing one game at the end and finishing second in the state was no reason to cry.

It was a terrific accomplishment.

Losing eight really good kids to graduation hurts a little more.